My son is stationed in the military. He called me before the holidays and said he would be unable to make it to my house for our annual Christmas dinner because he was working on a special project. Through a family member, I just found out that he instead wanted to spend Christmas with his dad, whom I divorced many years ago.
Abby, I would have been disappointed if he had told me his real plans up front, but I would have at least understood. If he was trying to protect my feelings by lying to me, he failed. I want to confront him about this, but don’t know how to proceed. Do you have any advice for me?
Mad in Madison
Back when we lived in Washington, we had a chain-link fence that I could see through easily. When mom and dad would leave without me, I would run out the doggy door and to the fence where it was closest to the carport. I would press my nose against the fence so that they could see they forgot me. When they would tell me that I had to stay and protect the house, I would give them my best sad eyes so they would change their mind about leaving me behind. This only worked once.
One time, I actually caught mom and dad trying to sneak out the front door after distracting me in the kitchen! They got all the way out to the car before I realized what they had done, so I gave them the saddest eyes ever. They still talk about how guilty they felt to this day.
I think that they were trying to do their best to make me feel better about them leaving me behind, even when it was in my best interest. Mom once explained that, most of the time, where they were going did not allow dogs, so I would just be stuck in the car alone not having any fun.
I think that my making mom and dad feel bad about leaving me made them feel they had to be deceptive, and that was kind of my fault. Now, mom and dad just tell me to stay and be a good girl. I do get disappointed, but they always come back, my cats and I always get come-home treats, and often we get to do walkies, too!
Maybe you pressed your nose against the fence too many times and your son is trying to make you feel better, just like mom and dad used to for me.
My cat Max likes to spend time with dad when he is home. He likes follow dad around the house, to sleep on the futon in dad’s office while he is writing, or to rest on the bed near dad when he is taking a nap. When mom is home and working, Max will hang out near her. Well…usually ON her…but that is another story… Neither mom nor dad feels jealous or hurt when Max is spending time with the other. They know that Max loves them both and will split his time fairly with them. Max gets upset, though, when his sister Phrytzie is taking his spot. But again, that is another story for another letter.
It sounds like you are not used to sharing your boy with your ex-husband. If he is as close to both of you as Max is to our parents, it is only fair to let him split time with you. Of course, I know that is not the big issue here. Being a dog, I am a very honest creature, and I am appreciated for it. I know that you appreciate your son when he is honest, and I can understand your being hurt and angry that he was not honest with you. The best thing I can recommend is that you are honest and direct with him, and let him know that it is okay to tell you anything — even if he is afraid it would hurt your feelings. Then, you must stay and be a good girl and do not make him feel bad when he takes you at your word.
You might want to arrange with him and your ex to alternate holiday celebrations with you, or to split them up, like Max does. This way, everybody wins.
All the best,